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Tolkien Notes 13

December 25, 2015

Indents, and Odovacar

Tolkien’s publisher Rayner Unwin once suggested, not entirely with tongue in cheek, that it could take centuries to achieve a printing of The Lord of the Rings with ‘typographical perfection’. One could predict just as well that there will never be an edition of The Lord of the Rings wholly without error, or if there were, it would not last for long, as errors seem to enter of their own will with every new typesetting or substantial revision. This is not to say that one should not strive to be correct, only that complete textual accuracy, and faithfulness to an author’s intentions, may be a quality that one may approach but can never quite reach.

One case in point arose from a question we received last year from our friend Andrew Ferguson. He asked if the space (indent) before ‘Elrond reveals . . .’ on p. 1089 of our edition of The Lord of the Rings (the citation is to the standard typesetting) could be an error, as it was not present in the first edition. The indented line begins a second paragraph in the entry for Third Age 2951 in the Tale of Years (Appendix B). We went to our shelves and determined that the indent was introduced in the reset edition of 1994. But the question remained: Is the indent an error, or is it wrong not to have the indent? Or even, would it be wrong in either case, if the text were meant to run on? 2951 is the only entry we can find in the Tale of Years which has a physical (line) break in the text. We felt that the entry for 3009 (p. 1090) could have a break, between ‘was captured by Sauron’ and ‘Elrond sends for Arwen’. Earlier this year, we were able to check these points on a visit to the Marquette University Tolkien papers, and made the following discoveries.

1. In Tolkien’s typescript of The Lord of the Rings (Marquette Series 3/9/6), ‘Elrond reveals . . .’ begins a new entry, under the date heading 2952. Also in the typescript, there is an entry for 3016, beginning ‘Elrond sends for Arwen . . .’ i.e. this part of the entry for 3009, as currently printed, was originally a separate entry dated seven years later.

2. In one galley proof (3/9/20) the shoulder date heading ‘2952’ is marked for deletion, but ‘Elrond reveals . . .’, beginning a new line, is not marked to run on with the text of the entry for 2951. The entry for 3016 is present, as in the typescript.

3. In another galley proof (3/9/21) ‘2952’ is not deleted. Appendix B ends erroneously with the entry for 3009, lacking ‘Elrond sends for Arwen . . .’ (i.e. the entry for 3016).

4. In still a third galley proof (3/9/22), both ‘2952’ and the entry for 3016 are present.

5. As published, in all editions, there has never been a Tale of Years entry under the date heading 2952, but ‘Elrond reveals . . .’ has always begun on a new line. Someone at HarperCollins evidently noticed the latter break in text when resetting for the edition of 1994, and felt that ‘Elrond reveals . . .’ needed to be indented as a new paragraph. Also, in all printings of the first edition, there is an entry for 3016, ‘Elrond sends for Arwen . . .’

6. With the revised and reset Appendices in the Ballantine Books edition of 1965, there was no separate entry for 3016, the text beginning ‘Elrond sends for Arwen . . .’ being conjoined with the entry for 3009. This carried over into the Allen & Unwin second edition, in which the Appendices were reset following the Ballantine printing (Tolkien’s original notes for revisions as sent to Houghton Mifflin having been lost), and is the text for all subsequent printings.

Since ‘Elrond reveals . . .’ has always begun a new line, and despite the associated date having been deleted from the one galley proof and from the printed text, we are inclined to think, following the evidence of the typescript, that Tolkien intended to begin a new entry, dated 2952. He also seems to have meant ‘Elrond sends for Arwen . . .’ to begin an entry for 3016, as in the first edition, rather than run on as part of the entry for 3009, as in the flawed Ballantine setting. Christopher Tolkien agrees that these points should be submitted to HarperCollins as further corrections.

Another question of long standing came to us from Larry Kuenning, as to whether the birth date of Odovacar Bolger, in the Bolger family tree, should be 1336, as printed in our edition of The Lord of the Rings, or 1335, as in The Peoples of Middle-earth. At Marquette, we found that Tolkien had written ‘1335’ in two holograph copies of the family tree (Marquette Series 3/9/8 and 3/9/9), but emended this to ‘1336’ in one galley proof of the printed family tree (3/9/10). In two other galley proofs, however, the date is not emended. With no final version, the Bolger family tree having been omitted from editions during Tolkien’s lifetime, Christopher Tolkien agrees with us that we cannot be sure which date his father intended, and therefore we must leave the point open to question.


The Map of Middle-earth

Like many other Tolkien enthusiasts, we were surprised when Blackwell’s Rare Books in Oxford offered for sale a proof of the original printed Lord of the Rings general map, annotated by both Tolkien and Pauline Baynes to assist Baynes in making the 1969 poster-map, A Map of Middle-earth. We wish we had known of its existence in Pauline’s collection; if we had, we could have examined it closely on one of our visits to her, and it may have helped inform our comments in The Art of The Lord of the Rings. Much has been written about it online, not always accurately. The best transcription of the annotations accompanies an article in French, ‘Découverte d’une carte de la Terre du Milieu annotée par Tolkien pour Pauline Baynes’, on the Tolkiendil site. Both Tolkien and Baynes had difficult handwriting from time to time, and there are still some points in question.


The Art of The Lord of the Rings

Art of Lord of the Rings trial bindingOur latest book appears to be selling very well. Now and then it has been listed on or as no. 1 in one category or another – the Amazons have many categories, such as Science Fiction and Fantasy criticism, and ‘Catalogs, Collections & Exhibitions’ in graphic arts. The Art of The Hobbit also continues to do well. We hope that those of our readers to whom Father Christmas brought one or another (or even many) of our books this year will enjoy them, and that you will all have a happy holiday season and new year.

  1. December 27, 2015 1:11 am

    Dear Wayne & Christina,

    Regarding your gorgeous “Art of The LOTR”, have you noticed any differences, besides the slipcover, between the HarperCollins (UK) edition and the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (American) edition? You had pointed out differences produced by those same publishers on at least one previous book you had published through them (I think it was the deletion of the Canto I image in the front matter of the U. S. edition of “The Fall of Arthur”), and there is also the significant difference between the UK & American editions of the 1987 50th Anniversary Hobbit introductions (with serious deletions made in the USA edition). So, any differences discovered thus far between the publishers of your latest work? Thank you for all you do in furthering in-depth study of significant creative art!

    Tim Vandenberg
    Apple Valley, CA

  2. Extollager permalink
    December 31, 2015 8:37 pm

    I’d like to share Bradley J. Birzer’s comments on your book — his book of the year at the American Conservative’s symposium:

    While almost every person under the age of 60 recognizes the genius of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythological creations as found in his published writings (which remain among the best selling of all-time best sellers), few realize that this Oxford scholar of Beowulf and all things medieval, this niggler of all Western legends, and this very middle-class husband and father was also an extremely good artist, as well as passable amateur cartographer. Since Tolkien’s death in 1973, five books of his art have appeared, with Hammond and Scull having expertly editing three of them. This most recent, The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, is not only glorious but is also a vital corrective to the cinematic horrors and travesties created by Peter Jackson’s six films. Tolkien, a real master of water colors and fantastic landscapes, fails only in figure drawing. As with his writing style, Tolkien ably matches the style of his art with the subject matter at hand. Hobbiton is ideally agrarian and republican while Mordor is wickedly mechanical and uniform. Most tellingly, however, Tolkien’s art is, somehow, humane. Even after nearly eight decades, his paintings remain fresh and timeless. Rather than shock as so much modern art does, Tolkien’s art simply invites and welcomes.

  3. Nathan Bradley permalink
    January 5, 2016 8:03 pm

    Both to Wayne and Christina, and to all others who frequent this site that I have just stumbled across,

    I hope you will permit the presence and questions of a relative newcomer to the world of Eä and as such, Midde-earth.

    I have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings some while ago, and what I wish to do is to devote some not inconsiderable time to learning more about Tolkien’s Legendarium.

    I realise that this is a very large task and will require quite some effort and a fair few purchases on my part.

    What I wish to do is purchase an edition of all of Tolkien’s Midde-earth work, including The Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales, Tales from a Perilous Realm, The Children of Hurin, his letters, The History of Midde-earth that Christopher completed and anything else that I may have missed.

    This is where I ask for your assistance.

    I know you have covered editions of The Lord of the Rings before, but I get lost, there are so many. What I wish to consider in all my purchases is the accuracy of said editions first and foremost, and, rather secondarily, their aesthetic qualities.

    I also cannot find a ‘complete’ Midde-earth bibliography anywhere (Complete here meaning those writings originating from the Tolkien Estate, though there are many fine editions and also additions that I should like to know about, like maps and reference guides, and including your own work, naturally!)

    If you can help me in any way with a bibliography, editions of any or all items, or indeed a reading order, or anything else you can think of, please do contact me.

    And I understand that you are both very busy, as I’m sure are other visitors to the site, but any advice would be gratefully received, even if it is a link to tell me to ‘clear off and read this!’

    I hope to hear from you soon, and I apologise for the long winded question.

  4. Extollager permalink
    January 8, 2016 11:12 am

    Nathan, you may find the discussion here

    [URL=”″]Tolkien Books[/URL]

    to be of interest.

    As for editions, my understanding is that the current editions of LotR are the best available texts. Perhaps see the discussion here:

  5. Natalia Prokhorova permalink
    January 10, 2016 4:15 pm

    Dear Wayne & Christina,

    Thanks for sharing your discoveries with us! I inserted the entry for 3016 in my good old edition of The Lord of the Rings (already speckled with other correcrions from your Reader’s Guide).
    But it seems that the question of the entry for 2952 ‘Elrond reveals to ‘Estel’ his true name and ancestry’ is another matter. The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen says that ‘when Estel was only twenty years of age, it chanced that he returned to Rivendell after great deeds in the company of the sons of Elrond… That day therefore Elrond called him by his true name…’. Aragorn was born on March 1st, 2931. That means that ‘he was 20 years old’ only in January and February of 2952. While it’s certainly not impossible that the company of the sons of Elrond chased Orcs in the Misty Mountains in winter, I wonder if Tolkien thought that the hardships of winter in the mountains would be beyond young Estel’s strength (compare the Pass of Caradhras, impassible in January) and if he marked the date ‘2952’ for deletion in one galley proof exactly for that reason?

    Natalia Prokhorova

  6. January 18, 2016 1:08 pm


    I think the real issue here is the line-break without a year number, as Wayne and Christina have stated it is the only obvious one in the Appendix.

    Your analysis could well be right, but I think that this entry in the Tale of Years should have a year and that Tolkien had wanted it to be 2952.

    The date 2952 was lost by the printers and not noticed.

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